KClogoby:  Laura Sargent

Thank You Jeanine Zimmer – Publisher

November 11, 2007

   This Friday, October 12, 2007, the website and its founding members and appreciative users will make a breakthrough. For the first time, the organization has brought together a living donor and kidney recipient.

   When tragedy strikes, friends and family are always near to remind us that hope springs eternal, but out of Jamestown bloomed another group of people who now extends across WNY and lends not only an ear to listen but a hand to help. The Western New York Kidney Connection was formed by a group of four ladies that shared a need (for themselves or loved ones) – a kidney. The Kidney Connection is an online website that plays host to a database of living donors, success stories of past recipients; it also provides steps for taking action and finding a kidney as opposed to waiting for the national waiting list of deceased donors – which could take years.

   The intention of the group is to inform others about how to take a proactive approach when they or a loved one is afflicted with a kidney disease. The site seeks living, healthy donors with a blood type that matches a person with non-functioning kidneys so that they might contribute and save a life. There is no transfer of money; selling or purchasing organs is quite illegal, but the donors offer their kidney as an altruistic act – most individuals are born with two kidneys, but the body functions normally with only one.

   Before Jeanette Ostrom of Jamestown, Patti Merritt of Grand Island, Diane Krzyzanowski of Akron and Tina Long of Buffalo founded the website, it was not acceptable in New York State to find a donor via the internet. Because of her son’s desperate need for a transplant, Ostrom began to fight this battle and won last year when her son, Paul received a transplant from William Thomas, a donor they found online fromAlaska.

   Since its inception less than a year ago, the website has gained the attention of local and national news stations as well as users. now has 30 individuals listed as needing kidneys and reports 15 successful transplant accounts. Though the site has helped connect people in need of a kidney with a donor before, this Friday will mark the first time the connection has taken place through the website alone without help or facilitation from the websites founders or administration.

   The recipient is a 34-year old woman, Leacardia “Lea” Rios, who lives in the Fredonia area. Before deciding to take an active role in finding a kidney and submitting her name to the Kidney Connection, she went through dialysis three times a week for four months. She submitted her name in December 2006 and by February was contacted by a willing donor. The donor, Debbie O’Connor, is originally from Fredonia and is a volunteer firefighter in the town of Evans.  Debbie first learned about the ability to be a living donor to someone in need even though there is no relative relation through an article she read in The Buffalo News about Ostrom’s son and his Alaskan donor. Debbie became familiar with Lea’s situation by reading her profile on the Kidney Connection website and ultimately decided to give her the gift of life.

   The donors are not the only ones who give; the site is free as well. The women had decided that there was no reason to charge a person with so many expenses already, an extra fee to add their name to the list. Once a connection is made between donor and recipient, no expenses are incurred then either. The health insurance of the recipient should cover all medical expenses for both parties but recipients may pay for non-medical expenses, such as travel, food, lodging or loss of wages. As for the women who run the organization, they are rewarded with the pure satisfaction of helping others. The normal wait time on a transplant list for a deceased donor can be up to four years and sometimes longer, most of which are spent attached to a dialysis machine, only prolonging fatality if a donor is not found. Currently, in the United States, there are 97,522 people awaiting transplants with only 16,757 successful transplants done since January 2007.

    The website, is a plethora of additional information including tips on finding a donor, answers to any concerns a donor may have and a list of contact-able transplant recipients.